Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj
Founder of Hindavi Swarajya
Samarth Ramdas, who lived in the times of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, described this personality in a verse composed of only adjectives as follows:
Nishchayacha Mahameru, Bahutajanansi aadharu, Akhandasthiticha Nirdharu, Shrimant Yogi...
...Ya bhumandalache thai, Dharma rakshi eisa nahi Maharashtra dharma rahila kahi tumha karani.
(The pinnacle of determination, protector of people, resolute in intent, wealthy yet detached from his opulence......There is no other on this earth, who has protected any people; It is because of you that the culture of Maharashtra survived)
This poem, considered to be a literary masterpiece, brings out the different dimensions and the noble character of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, as an ideal, determined, brave, courageous and kind King, in words that are powerfully rich and deeply meaningful. It also describes the achievements of this revolutionary personality in laying the foundation of the Hindavi Swarajya, in which Samarth Ramdas himself played an important role.
For nearly 300 years, the Mughal kings - the throne of Delhi, Adilshah, Nizam and Qutubshah, ruled over the land mass that is today known as Maharashtra. This foreign rule was exploitative and torturous and left people helpless against the atrocities that the rulers committed against them. Women and children, the fields and crops and homes were not safe in the hands of these rulers who would descend anytime and loot the populace.
It was in this period of subjugation and suppression, in times when freedom was hard to imagine, that a young Shivaji retaliated against this foreign rule, declared independence and proclaimed himself the King of the land.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was born the son of Shahaji Raje Bhosale and Jijau on the third day of the Hindu month of Phalgun in the Hindu year 1551, on the fort of Shivneri in Junnar taluka of Pune district (Ref: Shree Raja ShivChhatrapati, Gajanan Mehendale, Diamond Publications).
In the absence of his father who was the Jagirdar of the Bangalore region in Karnataka, the young Shivaji was brought up under the watchful eye and tutelage of his mother. She told him stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat and kindled the flame of freedom in the young Shivba. She taught him politics and religion, at the same time trained him in the art of fighting by wielding the stick and dandpatta (a kind of sword with protective armour for the arm). Shivba became a skilled swordsman and a horse rider too. In this way, young Shivaji was well-prepared and groomed for the mission ahead.
Jijabai took charge of the Pune Jagir after Murar Jagdev rendered it useless for human habitation (ploughed it with a donkey and destroyed the crops and fields). Jijabai used a golden plough to bring the people of Pune together and re-establish the city. During this time, Shivaji came in contact with twelve Mavale (youth from the Maval area in Pune, those who are fighters) in connection with the administration of the Jagir. These were his first friends, who were to become his allies in the freedom struggle. His leadership skills too came to the fore during this time. He punished a village head by ordering his hands and legs to be cut off when he misbehaved with a woman. Thus, the young Shivaji proved himself to be a fair and just ruler and a capable leader of the independent State. At the age of sixteen, with the Lord Shiva at the Rayreshwar temple as his witness, he took the oath to make Maharashtra independent by cutting himself and offering the shrine his own blood. His close friends accompanied him on this occasion. Then followed the acquisition of the Torna and Purandar forts and the defeat of FatehKhan, all rengthening his confidence in himself and his commitment to his mission. Yet, his real test came when Shahaji Raje was arrested. The enemy of your enemy is your friend: by following this rule, he proved his mettle as an able politician and strategist and used his friendship with the Badshah of Delhi to pressurize Adilshah to secure his father’s release.
Soon after, calamity stuck Maharashtra in the form of AfzalKhan. He burned many villages, destroyed many temples and spread terror among the populace. Without dithering, Shivaji Maharaj decided to face him squarely. Shivaji Maharaj’s meeting with AfzalKhan at the foot of the Pratapgarh fort made history. In this meeting, Maharaj killed AfzalKhan with tiger claws while pretending to greet AfzalKhan warmly in an embrace. Maharaj had prepared himself for this meeting in minute details. He knew his own height and weight and also that of AfzalKhan’s, and had carefully selected his clothes for the occasion. He had also drafted a plan to defeat AfzalKhan’s army if the mission to kill AfzalKhan in the meeting was successful. There was also a counter-plan to fall back on in case the mission failed and Maharaj himself was killed. Maharaj also personally selected the people who accompanied him on this mission.
This crisis brought home the realisation of the responsibility he held as the guardian of Swarajya. The bravery and sacrifices of Kanhoji Jedhe and other Maratha soldiers brought about a feeling of gratitude, furthering his feeling of responsibility.
Historians and scholars appreciate Maharaj’s cunning resourcefulness in engineering this defeat of AfzalKhan.
Shivaji Maharaj had extended the boundaries of his kingdom from Tungabhadra in the south to the Satpuda mountain ranges in the north. During war times, he never troubled or terrorized the people and the Maratha soldiers never harassed any woman. He always advocated ideal goals, norms and values for his soldiers, thus succeeding in maintaining the moral of his army.
While Maharaj was building his army, responding to outside attacks and acquiring new territory, he was also setting up a sound administration and initiating many constructive projects. He centralized the salaries of the armies, initiated the system of transfers of the administering officers, set up a system to collect land revenue based on the geographical area and introduced the policy to waive revenue collection in times of natural calamities. He introduced the system of working for six months in the army and farming for six months, giving his soldiers an opportunity to serve the country and earn a living. This gave the people financial and social security, thus strengthening their belief in Swarajya.
Thousands of Mavale like Suryaji Kakade, Waghoji Tupe, Baji Pasalkar, Murarbaji Deshpande, Bajiprabhu Deshpande, Tanaji Malusare, Prataprao Gujar, Netaji Palkar and Bahirji Naik laid down their lives for the dream of Hindavi Swarajya. Their high motivation and patriotism, together with modern weaponry, fast steeds and the establishment of an armada to guard against the attacks from the Arabs, Abyssinians, Siddi and the Portuguese – all contributed to the creation of Swarajya. Shivaji Maharaj studied the enemy carefully and took advantage of the its weakness to defeat him. He used guerrilla warfare and the elements of speed and surprise to defeat the likes of DilerKhan, ShaisteKhan, AfzalKhan thus protecting his people against every attack made on the land.
Soon, the boundaries of Swarajya extended far and wide. The enthronement of Shivaji to give legitimacy to this kingdom became imperative. Thus, Shivaji Maharaj was coronated Chhatrapati at the hands of Kashi’s Gagabhatta, in the Hindu month of Jyeshtha in the year 1674. It was an important moment in history that made Maharashtra and the whole country proud.
Upon studying Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s career and personality, a few things stand out. Maharaj had courage, valour, physical stamina, fixed ideology, excellent organising capabilities, disciplined and planned administrative skills and foresight. In addition to these qualities, he was an excellent strategist and was goal oriented.
- Shivaji worked hard as a child and during his youth to increase his physical strength and stamina.
- He brought together simple-minded Mavale and enthused them with an ideology and loyalty. He gave them purpose.
- He vowed to dedicate himself to founding the Hindavi Swarajya and neverfaltered.
- He brought important forts under his rule and built new ones.
- He attacked the enemy at the right time or compromised if necessary; using this principle shrewdly, he managed to defeat his enemies most of thetime, at times even facing family disputes.
- He used guerrilla warfare techniques cleverly.
- He brought about order and administration to the lives of common people, farmers, soldiers and priests and places of worship.
- He promoted Marathi as the official language and gave patronage to many art forms and artists.
- He created an eight-minister cabinet to administer the Hindavi Swarajya. This was one of the most important decisions taken by him.
- At the same time, he instilled confidence among the poor, downtrodden masses. He gave them a sense of purpose in life.
- He managed to achieve all this within a short life span of fifty years.
- Today, Maharashtra continues to be inspired by the spirit of independence sowed in the seventeenth century by Maharaj. The pride and sense of achievement that every Maharashtrian feels even today can be duly attributed to the work of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Maharaj’s health suffered soon after he returned victorious from his conquest of the South. The constant expeditions and battles had taken their toll and Maharaj passed away on the 3rd of April 1680. His death signalled the end of an era.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is an ideal example of what a mortal can achieve through his physical and mental strength and will power. His is a shining example of the heights one can reach by cultivating such virtues as courage, humility, a high regard for ethics, foresight, bravery, presence of mind and many other such qualities. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj has become immortal for the people of Maharashtra, setting an exemplary example for us to follow.
The story of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj does not end at his death. For thirty years after his death, in the absence of any single, stable leadership, the people of Maharashtra fought the Mughal even when Aurangzeb himself came to conquer this land. Finally, the Mughal King had to lay down his life here. This was only because of the foundation of unified Swarajya laid down by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj created Anandvanbhuvan – a prosperous, heavenly place on this land, which is described lucidly by Saint Ramdas in his verse Anandvanbhuvani. It is an apt ode sung in praise of Maharaj, documenting and saluting his valiant efforts to build the Hindavi Swarajya and bring peace to the land.